(Briefing) Pandemic spreads, balloons fall, fires burn — from chaos we build order

Ron Steffens
6 min readDec 11, 2020

CHANGE PERMEATES HUMAN EXISTENCE — in our world and in our profession, and in Wildfire magazine too. As the International Association of Wildland Fire explores its mission to unite our profession globally, it has become time to ask how a magazine like this can best serve our members, our profession and our communities in a global and online era. As board and committee members and so many others help to explore these new paths, I find it’s time for me to explore all topics wildfire from another lookout. And so with this issue I’ll be stepping aside as editor.

Over the years I’ve been honored to support hundreds of colleague-contributors as we’ve shared stories, ideas and images with our colleague-readers and the public beyond. As with any work of art, a magazine is a communal effort, and it’s been grand to improvise a bit of wildfire-jazz these past years. My gratitude would take an entire issue. I simply offer my thanks — to all.

I send my special thanks to all who’ve supported this issue, which explores the challenges of our pandemic times and the many ways we are beginning to adapt our work, our lives and our systems in response.

In rough order, the front part of this issue features IAWF president Toddi Steelman’s reflection on our profession’s response to the pandemic, followed by our always-awesome leadership column by Mike DeGrosky on how to lead by making “good trouble,” a lesson learned from the late civil rights leader John Lewis. Plus we have updates from our profession and our science, and a review of a book on using fire to manage fire in Australia.

Moving into the main features, a range of writers offer three approaches for building order out of our chaos — local and global — while enjoining us to act, and to act together. How can we (and should we) modernize our wildland fire organizations? How can a social-science approach guide us in our response to the pandemic and fire? And how can a burgeoning wildland fire professional’s travel fellowship guide us into a shared vision of how environmental governance may help us face our fire problems by building on our many fire solutions?

THERE’S ANOTHER STORY on my mind these days, a local one, of a strange morning when the terror…

Ron Steffens

Writing on people, places & priorities. Working as a park ranger & firefighter & adjunct faculty @PrescottCollege. From Arizona, Oregon, Wyoming, Africa & afar.